Identity, disability, and marriage for women with vulvodynia: Predicting quality of life from individual and dyadic perceptions

Date of Completion

January 2004


Health Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




Vulvodynia is a chronic pain disorder, specific to women, that results in chronic vulvar or vaginal discomfort, with symptoms ranging from burning, stinging, irritation, itching, pain, rawness, and dyspareunia. Vulvodynia has the potential to affect women and their lives in many ways, including personal identity, overall quality of life, and relationships with others. This study investigated factors associated with quality of life, quality of marriage, identity, and disability for married women with vulvodynia. Using a symbolic interactionist theoretical model, it explored the ability of individual and dyadic perceptions of disability and identity, marital quality, and marital equity to predict quality of life. It also analyzed the ways in which social support and sexual satisfaction issues related to quality of life and moderated the relationships among identity, perception of disability, marriage, and quality of life. ^ Sixty-three couples participated in this study by completing paper and pencil surveys, including: Pain and Impairment Relationship Scale (PAIRS), Marital Comparison Level Index (MCLI), Walster Global Measures (WGM), Six-item Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ-6), Index of Sexual Satisfaction (ISS), and a demographic/diagnostic questionnaire. Backward multiple regression analyses revealed that a significant portion of the variation in quality of life scores for the women participants could be predicted by their own perceptions of self as disabled by their pain, their own perception of marital quality, and their marital equity category. Hierarchical regression analyses showed that social support satisfaction for the women, and sexual satisfaction scores for women and their husbands predicted quality of life for the women, and moderated the relationships among perceptions of disability, marital quality, marital equity, and quality of life. The findings of this study suggest that a multi-dimensional, biopsychosocial approach to assessing the impact of vulvodynia on the lives of married women should be used, and should include both individual measures and measures that include dyadic perceptions within the couple. ^